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WANTED: Chesapeake Bay state legislators aim to reclaim a bigger share of the federal conservation funding pie.

Chesapeake Bay states push for more conservation funding

Legislation introduced to shift conservation fund allocations back to Chesapeake Bay.

Seeking to bolster Chesapeake Bay restoration funds, U.S. House and Senate members from the bay states have introduced their own Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancement Act of 2017. While the hope is that it would be wrapped into the 2018 Farm Bill, where it ends up is anyone’s guess.

In brief, the legislation seeks to amend the Food Security Act of 1985 to address critical conservation conditions under the regional conservation partnership program. It would increase mandatory funding for the bay, strengthen the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and provide more opportunities for effective conservation efforts.

The bills were introduced by Congressman Bobby Scott, D-Va., on the House side and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. Sponsors included Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Mark Warner, D-Va., Tom Carper, D-Del., Chris Coons, D-Del., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. The legislation is supported by bay state governors, including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, and more than 70 conservation groups.

Van Hollen, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, says: “As we begin work on the farm bill, I urge my colleagues to seriously consider this legislation.”

Sen. Tom Carper, top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, says: “Recently, funding for this environmental and economic resource has been put in jeopardy, and that’s not only irresponsible, but it’s also bad for business. A thriving bay means a thriving local economy, and we’ve made so much progress toward restoring the bay that it is shortsighted to stop now.”

The legislation stresses the importance of helping the Regional Conservation Partnership Program be more effective and work better for farmers.

In the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress authorized the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative to provide assistance to agricultural producers to minimize excess nutrients and sediments in order to restore, preserve and protect the Chesapeake Bay. On average, approximately $50 million was invested annually in the Chesapeake Bay through that iinitiative. But in 2014, the RCPP was created to reallocate prioritized conservation resources previously handled by other state and regional conservation programs. Under the RCPP, the Chesapeake Bay has received significantly less funding — averaging around $13 million annually.

The Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act would help restore some of this much-needed funding by tripling the amount of mandatory RCPP funding available per fiscal year from $100 million to $300 million. The bill would also improve technical assistance for partners and prioritize projects that improve water quality and water quantity and implement multi-state watershed restoration plans.

The text of the legislation can be found here. A letter from Bay State Governors, supporting the legislation, can be found here. A letter from groups supporting this legislation can be found here.

Source: Chesapeake Bay Foundation

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